Main | Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portion Of Voting Rights Act Of 1965

From NBC News:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the map that determines which states must get federal permission before they change their voting laws. The ruling, a 5-4 decision by Chief Justice John Roberts, leaves the future of the law deeply uncertain because it will be up to a sharply divided Congress to redraw the map.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote for the court. Under the law, nine mostly Southern states must get permission from the Justice Department or a special panel of three federal judges before they make changes. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.
More from ABC News:
Chief Justice John Roberts said for the conservative majority that Congress "may draft another formula based on current conditions." That task eluded Congress in 2006 when lawmakers overwhelmingly renewed the advance approval requirement with no changes in which states and local jurisdictions were covered, and Congress did nothing in response to a high court ruling in a similar challenge in 2009 in which the justices raised many of the same concerns.

"The coverage formula that Congress reauthorized in 2006 ignores these developments, keeping the focus on decades-old data relevant to decades-old problems, rather than current data reflecting current needs," Roberts said. The decision means that a host of state and local laws that have not received Justice Department approval or have not yet been submitted will be able to take effect. Prominent among those are voter identification laws in Alabama and Mississippi.
The National Journal:
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires counties with a history of passing laws that target minority voters to seek Justice Department approval when changing voting laws, applies to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, along with several other counties and cities across the country.

The case was brought forth by Shelby County, Ala., which claimed that the days of racist voting laws are gone, citing the reelection of a black president. The case argues that these Southern states, which the law applies to, should have the right to independently change their statutes without the Justice Department's approval. The county did not argue that there was racism at one point in the South, which unfairly targeted minority voters. The Justice Department's position is that there are still several jurisdictions that need to be monitored. Racism, they said, is not over in the country, where voter intimidation and restrictive voting laws still exist.

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